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Sexual Side Effects – Chemotherapy

Last updated: October 2022

In this article, I would like to talk about one of the more common treatments for cancers, generally known as chemotherapy, and some of its side effects related to sexual health. Let's get started.

What does chemotherapy do?

Generally speaking, chemotherapy targets cells that grow and divide rather quickly, like cancer cells. In some situations, chemo can destroy a majority of cancer cells. In other situations, the doctor will use chemo to keep cancer from spreading to other areas of your body or slow the growth of the cancerous tumor.1

While this is a very high-level look at how chemotherapy works, let's take a deeper look at the side effects.

Common chemo side effects

Chemo may also harm healthy cells, which can lead to side effects. Not everyone who goes through chemotherapy has all these side effects. With that said, some side effects may include:2

Changes in sexual health

According to the MD Anderson Center at the University of Texas, many people report a loss of desire as a sexual side effect of cancer treatments. The center recommends that people undergoing chemotherapy who want to have sex use barrier methods, such as condoms, or dental dams for oral sex.3

Why? Chemicals from chemotherapy have been found in semen and vaginal fluids. Additionally, chemotherapy may reduce the amount of germ-fighting white blood cells in your body. This is another reason to practice safer sex or barrier methods during sex.3,4

Also, the center warns against trying to conceive a child during chemotherapy treatment, as birth defects may occur.3

Chemotherapy may make you too tired and drained for sex. If so, it may be good to turn to other methods of intimacy, such as kissing or cuddling.

Different experience for everyone

Many of the research articles I read while writing this article mentioned over and over that chemotherapy can affect people differently, depending on what type or brand of cancer treatment they are getting. Please, in the comment section below, feel free to mention other types of sexual side effects you experienced due to chemotherapy. Thanks for reading.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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